We are on leg 2 of our 5 week road trip and I've been splitting driving duties for this part, which means more reading time for me! So over the past week or so I've been plowing through books, I've even had to stop at 2 different book stores for more books. This is by far my favorite thing- discovering new indie book shops. For a long time my go to road trip book stores have been Books & Company in Oconomowoc, WI and The Book Peddler in West Yellowstone, MT. I was lucky enough to come across 2 more phenomenal shops- Back of Beyond Books in Moab, UT (amazing rare book collection- I could have stayed there for days!) and Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, CO. Needless to say, I've been reading a lot, and since internet is scarce in these parts, I'm not going to give a whole post to each book, I'm just going to smush them all into one post and let you guys know what I loved, what drove me nuts and which author is emerging as a new favorite.
The Safest Lies by Megan Miranda
Release Date: May 24th 2016
Can fear be inherited?
Kelsey has lived most of her life in a shadow of fear, raised to see danger everywhere. Her mother hasn’t set foot outside their front door in seventeen years, since she escaped from her kidnappers with nothing but her attacker’s baby growing inside her—Kelsey.
Kelsey knows she’s supposed to keep a low profile for their own protection, but that plan is shattered when she drives off a cliff and is rescued by volunteer firefighter and classmate Ryan Baker.
A few days later, she arrives home to face her greatest fear: her mother is missing. She and her mother have drilled for all contingencies—except this one. Luckily, Ryan is as skilled at emergency rescues as Kelsey is at escape and evasion.
To have a chance at a future, Kelsey will have to face all her darkest fears. Because someone is coming for her.
And the truth about the past may end up being the most dangerous thing of all.
My Ramblings: Meghan Miranda is phenomenal author. Time and time again her books manage to suck me in and keep me on the edge of my seat. For some reason I keep letting her books slip through the cracks, but I really need to stop doing that! This time the plot is relatively simple, or so you think, until little by little the truth that Kelsey thought she was living begins to come unraveled. Nothing is what it seems, and Miranda manages to keep the story propelling forward at a fast clip, while still making sure that nothing is left behind, even a past that might better be forgotten. I LOVED this book. I can't believe it took me this long to find it!
It's Not Me, It's You by Stephanie Kate Strohm
Release Date: October 25th, 2016
One high school girl's comedic examination of her dating past as told by the friends, family, and boys who were involved!
Avery Dennis is a high school senior and one of the most popular girls in her class. But a majorly public breakup with the guy she's been dating causes some disastrous waves. It is right before prom and Avery no longer has the perfect date. She runs the prom committee, how could she not show up with somebody?
Post-breakup, Avery gets to thinking about all of the guys that she has ever dated. How come none of those relationships ever worked out? Could it be her fault? Avery decides to investigate. In history class she's learning about this method of record-keeping called "oral history" and she has a report due. So Avery decides to go directly to the source. Avery tracks down all of the guys she's ever dated, and uses that information, along with thoughts from her friends, family, and teachers, to compile a total account of her dating history.
Avery discovers some surprises about herself and the guys she's spent time with -- just in time for prom night!
My Ramblings: This was another great book. I was really hesitant with the format at first, written like an oral history, the story bounces from character to character interview style, with occasional input from the main character Avery. Strohm does a great job keeping the story line clear and making sure each person has a fully rounded persona, which can be really hard to do with this format. I really enjoyed following Avery as she tries to figure out what all of her past relationships mean about her. Throughout the story we see characters who by and large are incredibly realistic, some are nice, some are mean, some are smart, some are not, but all the character feel wholly realized. I had mixed feelings about the ending and whether or not I wanted Avery to attend prom alone or with a date, but the choice she makes works perfectly for her, so I'm okay with it! I can't wait to find some more books from this author.
Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Opal
Release Date: September 20, 2016 (apparently I'm feeling very '06)
Somewhere in the Badlands, embedded deep in centuries-buried rock and sand, lies the skeleton of a massive dinosaur, larger than anything the late nineteenth-century world has ever seen. Some legends call it the Black Beauty, with its bones as black as ebony, but to seventeen-year-old Samuel Bolt, it’s the “rex,” the king dinosaur that could put him and his struggling, temperamental archaeologist father in the history books (and conveniently make his father forget he’s been kicked out of school), if they can just quarry it out.
But Samuel and his father aren’t the only ones after the rex. For Rachel Cartland this find could be her ticket to a different life, one where her loves of science and adventure aren’t just relegated to books and sitting rooms. And if she can’t prove herself on this expedition with her professor father, the only adventures she may have to look forward to are marriage or spinsterhood.
As their paths cross and the rivalry between their fathers becomes more intense, Samuel and Rachel are pushed closer together. Their flourishing romance is one that will never be allowed. And with both eyeing the same prize, it’s a romance that seems destined for failure. As their attraction deepens, danger looms on the other side of the hills, causing everyone’s secrets to come to light and forcing Samuel and Rachel to make a decision. Can they join forces to find their quarry, and with it a new life together, or will old enmities and prejudices keep them from both the rex and each other?
My Ramblings: So I really wanted to love this book. In theory it should have ticked all the boxes. History, adventure, a little romance, danger, etc, etc, etc. Unfortunately it also hit on my biggest pet peeve. Changing history. The Bone Wars are incredibly interesting- it was a time when two paleontologists went essentially head to head trying to unearth dinosaurs in the late 1800's. I can only assume that the parents of the two main characters are based on the two real Paleontologists, Edward Cope who worked out of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and Othniel Charles Marsh who was from Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History. Except the things these characters do in the book are not particularly attributed to the real people they appear to be based on. Yes, they had a rivalry at the Tar Pits in NJ, and they traveled west to discover new species (often butting heads in violent and underhanded ways), but the one dino they didn't discover was the T-rex, which was discovered by a man named Barnum Brown in the early 1900's. Except, this book almost exclusively revolves around discovering the T-rex in the Badlands. (it was found in Montana). I was so preoccupied by how not-correct the story was that the book ended up being a complete disaster for me. I spent more time researching the actual happenings of the Bone Wars then I did reading the book. This might be a me problem (and this isn't the first book I've had this issue with), but I can't stand when a book is so very clearly based on real people and locations, but deviates just enough to give bad information.
I wanted to love this book, but in the end it just kind of made me mad. I will say that it introduced me to a few historic figures that until now I was unaware of and it's been really interesting learning about the Bone Wars and how it impacted science, paleontology and the people (both looking for bones and those protecting their lands) at the heart of the expeditions.
As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti
Release Date: January 2nd, 2018
What if you could ask for anything- and get it?
In the sandy Mojave Desert, Madison is a small town on the road between nothing and nowhere. But Eldon wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, because in Madison, everyone gets one wish—and that wish always comes true.
Some people wish for money, some people wish for love, but Eldon has seen how wishes have broken the people around him. And with the lives of his family and friends in chaos, he’s left with more questions than answers. Can he make their lives better? How can he be happy if the people around him aren’t? And what hope is there for any of them if happiness isn’t an achievable dream? Doubts build, leading Eldon to a more outlandish and scary thought: maybe you can’t wish for happiness…maybe, just maybe, you have to make it for yourself.
My Ramblings: This was a really interesting book that on the surface seems to be simply about a town where everyone gets a wish on their 18th birthday and how that can effect a community. The more I read, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was much deeper then that. At first blush it would seem that getting one wish would be fabulous. You can wish for (almost) anything and how could that be anything but good. Dig a little deeper, as Eldon and his friends do, and you begin to realize that life is never that simple and that one decision can have lasting and unforeseen effects. Sedoti does a great job at taking us through the town of Madison as Eldon tries to decide what he really wants out of life and what he is willing to do to get it. I also rather like that the magic of the wishes is left up in the air, there's no grand explanation, no big reveal, just the understanding that sometimes magic exists and it's not always something that should be used. I really enjoyed this story and the lessons that were hidden in between the lines.
The Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely
Release Date: January 2nd, 2018
Seventeen-year-old Serendipity "Pity" Jones inherited two things from her mother: a pair of six shooters and perfect aim. She's been offered a life of fame and fortune in Cessation, a glittering city where lawlessness is a way of life. But the price she pays for her freedom may be too great....
In this extraordinary debut from Lyndsay Ely, the West is once again wild after a Second Civil War fractures the U.S. into a broken, dangerous land. Pity's struggle against the dark and twisted underbelly of a corrupt city will haunt you long after the final bullet is shot.
My Ramblings: Overall this was a really fun book that combined two of my favorite things, future dystopia and wild west, which are things that you wouldn't normally slap together, but somehow Ely really makes it work. Pit Jones is a great character- about to be forced into an arranged marraige she strikes out with a friend, only to encounter danger that she isn't prepared to face, picked up by strangers she finds herself in a lawless town with only one option... perform as a sharpshooter in the circus. Pity becomes a futuristic Annie Oakley, forced to not only shoot in the show, but also shoot to kill if she's ordered to. Pity has to find out who she can trust and what she is really capable of. This was a really fun, quick read and I'm glad I grabbed it off the shelf.
Best friends Corey and Kyra were inseparable in their snow-covered town of Lost Creek, Alaska. When Corey moves away, she makes Kyra promise to stay strong during the long, dark winter, and wait for her return.
Just days before Corey is to return home to visit, Kyra dies. Corey is devastated―and confused. The entire Lost community speaks in hushed tones about the town's lost daughter, saying her death was meant to be. And they push Corey away like she's a stranger.
Corey knows something is wrong. With every hour, her suspicion grows. Lost is keeping secrets―chilling secrets. But piecing together the truth about what happened to her best friend may prove as difficult as lighting the sky in an Alaskan winter...
This was a really phenomenal book- it deals with what might be supernatural things, but the way they are framed, even as a reader you aren't sure what's real and whats not, whats happening in real life and what's happening in the characters heads. What is clear is that this book deals with the very real issue of mental illness and how it effects not just the person who is has the illness, but everyone around them
At the heart of the story are Kyra and Corey, best friends who were seperated when Corey's mom moved for a job. Left behind in the very quirky town of Lost, Alaska, Kyra finds herself very literally lost and alone, trying to cope with Bipolar disorder in a town that doesn't understand her at best and is afraid of her at worst. Kyra spirals out of control and without Corey there to ground her she takes her own life. Where the story really gets interesting is when Corey begins to dig into Kyra's death and discovers the town she once loved may have contributed to Kyra's death much more heavily then she thought possible. The town has changed and Corey is no longer welcome, but first she must survive a week in Lost while trying to preserve the memory of a friend she loved. This book takes a lot of twists and turns, but at it's heart is about 2 friends who lost their way and a community that wanted to assign meaning to an illness they didn't understand, even if it meant killing Kyra.
For me, this book has more meaning beyond being a really excellent story. As someone who has both anxiety and depression, it was easy to relate to Kyra, and to see the toll it can take on those around you who just don't understand. I could feel Kyra's frustration when she wanted people to just accept her as who she is, bipolar disorder and all, and still want to get better, to feel more "normal", to stop the swing from mania to depression, to feel like she belonged. All in all, Nijkamp does an amazing job taking very real issues that surround mental illness and the lack of understanding that can come with it, and weave it into a story that leaves you wondering about the secrets little town keep and the magic they cling to when they feel their world falling apart.
Knowing the outcome doesn't always make a choice easier...
Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.
In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through... and who she can’t live without.
This book started off a little slow for me. I struggled at the outset to really connect with Addie. It seemed to me that her life was pretty run of mill, even if she had a wee bit of a super power, her daily grind was pretty mundane.... until... she's faced with a choice and we really see what her super power can do.
I don't want to give too much away here, so I'm only going to say that once Addie began to search her future so she could decide which path to take I was totally hooked. The twists and turns in both potential realities were great. Either one alone would have made a great book, the fact that West was able to weave together 2 entire plot lines is amazing. I couldn't put the book down, I just needed to know what was going to happen and what Addie would pick.
There are a few things in particular that I absolutely love about this book- One is that Addie is not looking for love throughout the whole book. In fact, she's actively avoiding it. Too often we see YA novels that center around "girl meets boy" and the romance that follows. In one timeline we see a girl has an awesome best friend and is skeptical when the school heart throb starts paying her attention. In the other we have Addie meeting Trevor and seeing him as cute, but also as perfect best friend material. She's not looking for the hook up, she's looking for a friend. I LOVE that first and foremost in the story is friendship and the support that can only come from good friends. Sure, love follows, but it isn't the center piece of the relationships.
The other thing I adore is actually just one line from Trevor, timeline #2 best friend, Addie explains her powers to him and when he realizes what she would have to give up to stay with him, who she would lose, he says simply "You don't pick this. This has to be a search. There's no way you would pick this. Everything will be okay." The reason I love this is because he doesn't even hesitate, he puts Addie first and knows that he could never ask her to give up the things would have to. He is willing to lose her to make sure she isn't hurt, but he also trusts that it will work out. There's no selfishness there and I love that. I was 100% Team Trevor from that moment on.
I'll apologize here because that was a pretty vague review.... I know that this book came out awhile ago, but West does such a great job intertwining the stories that I really don't want to spoil it for anyone. I'll just say that at the end of the book I was immediately crushed because I didn't get the resolution I wanted and then had book whiplash when I realized that there was a sequel (Split Second). Although I will admit I'm a little hesitant to read it because after that book it will really be over! In short- if you haven't read this one yet, go get it. It's totally worth it.
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